Police reveal robbers took £53m from security depot

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The Independent Online

The armed gang which raided the Tonbridge Securitas depot in Britain's biggest cash robbery got away with £53m, police have disclosed. A total of £53,116,760 was loaded into a 7.5-ton white Renault truck by six masked men early last Wednesday, more than double the £26.5m taken in the raid at the Northern Bank's Belfast headquarters in December 2004.

Adrian Leppard, assistant chief constable of Kent, said that five arrests had been made since Sunday afternoon in connection with the robbery, in addition to the six people released on bail last week. Four men were being questioned, and another has been released on bail.

Mr Leppard confirmed that arrests made in Tankerton near Whitstable on Sunday, during which police were reported to have shot out the tyres of a BMW car, were connected with the continuing inquiry into the robbery. Search warrants had also been executed at 10 locations.

He said that four of the five men arrested in the past 36 hours had been held in "pre-planned firearms operations".

"One of those involved a vehicle being driven in Tankerton in the village of Whitstable in Kent that took place yesterday afternoon. Another involved two men that were arrested in a vehicle in Greenwich in south-east London," Mr Leppard said.

No one was injured in either incident. "We are gathering important evidence and following a number of significant lines of inquiry," he said. "I am pleased with progress and remain confident that we will catch those responsible."

A total of £1.3m was found in the back of a white Transit van left at the Ashford International Hotel, along with guns, balaclavas and flak jackets.

Police were continuing their search last night for the lorry used to transport the cash out of the depot. The cash had been removed in 14 cages, which were later found dumped in fields at Detling, near Maidstone.

Forensic officers were working on sites across Kent yesterday, including a semi-detached house in Southborough, near Tunbridge Wells. Neighbours of the house raided there have spoken of the "incredibly frightening" moment that armed police stormed the property, which is said to be the home of a professional kick-boxer.

Robert Neve, 34, said of his neighbour: "He is a really massive guy, not that tall but incredibly stocky. We haven't seen him since midweek."

Members of the gang posed as policemen to simultaneously kidnap the depot's manager, Colin Dixon, aged 51, his wife Lynn, aged 45, and nine-year-old Craig. After being threatened, they were left tied up with 14 other Securitas workers in what Mr Dixon has said was "the worst night of my life".

Mr Leppard said that the police hotline which was set up following the robbery had now received more than 1,300 callsfrom members of the public.